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GOP chair resolves Douglas County case of ‘old, white man’ politics



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Updated at 1:35 p.m.: A Douglas County attempt to block the chairman of the Georgia Black Republican Council from becoming a delegate at the state convention has been overruled, state GOP chair Sue Everhart just told me.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s settled. It was a stupid thing done by one person,” Everhart said. She accepted the explanation from those involved that there was no racial motivation involved.

More explained below, marked in bold.

Original post: Here’s great timing for you:

Last Thursday, Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, held a meeting in Atlanta with two dozen African-Americans to discuss can be done to make the GOP a little more appealing to non-whites.

Two days later, as Georgia Republicans began the process of picking who should attend a state convention in May, the chairman of the Georgia Black Republican Council and his wife were blocked as delegates at a Douglas County gathering. Michael McNeely, chairman of the GBRC, is also a candidate for the No. 2 spot in the Georgia GOP – the position of first vice-chairman.

The incident has already attracted the attention of one Republican senator, who condemned it from the well of the Senate this morning.

The following is an excerpt of an email that went out Saturday afternoon from Bryan Tolar, an exiting officer of the Douglas County GOP and president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council:

At the Mirror Lake precinct table today, Douglas County GOP Board Member Jack Gamel led an effort to refuse Michael McNeely (a strong conservative and 1st Vice-Chair of the Douglas County GOP) a precinct delegate spot. There were 15 delegate slots available and only five people present, yet Jack insisted in his action. Jack's petty old white man politics targeted one of the rising African American stars of Georgia and National GOP leaders. By a 3-2 vote, Jack's efforts were successful.

We’ve left a message by phone, and have sent him an email, but attempts to contact Gamel have thus far been unsuccessful.

Saturday’s GOP meetings were the first round in the two-step delegate selection process. County meetings are to be held March 9.

In an interview Sunday night, McNeely said he and another African-American were at the Mirror Lake table with Gamel and two other white Republicans. When Gamel proposed the list of 15 delegates to the county convention, McNeely noticed that his name, and that of his wife, Jennifer, were missing. (The name of the other black Republican at the table was included on the list of 15.)

 McNeely made a motion to reverse the action. The vote was defeated on a 3-2, white-black vote.

Afterwards, McNeely said Gamel told him that the action was “payback” for running against – and beating -- one of his friends for a Douglas County GOP position two years ago.

“The official line was that it was retribution,” said McNeely, who is also deputy commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice. “At a time when we are trying to broaden our base, here we are trying to pick people off that are working hard. This is petty, this is childish, and some will infer other things in it. It’s a travesty, either way.”

Reactions to the incident have varied. My AJC colleague Kristina Torres sends word that state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, called the omission a “shameful act,” adding that he hoped the “grave mistake” would be corrected.

Meagan Hanson of the Georgia Young Republicans offered a similar sentiment:

“The behavior of a very particular few in Douglas County to exclude two dedicated Republicans from the party process is not just troubling-- it is destructive. We must abandon personal vendettas and embrace our shared conservative values. The Georgia Young Republicans call on the rational minds in the Douglas County Republican Party to right this wrong. Credential Michael and Jennifer McNeely as delegates to the County Convention. Allow them their just place at all our sides as fellow Republicans.”

Then there was message from Douglas County GOP Chairman Bert Blood, in an email to his fellow party members:

This afternoon a member of our board who had access to the Constant Contact password used this service to air personal grievances regarding an incident at today's meeting.

I want to take this opportunity to APOLOGIZE to all party members for this breach of trust and to assure you that I will do all within my power to insure that the integrity of this valuable database is maintained.

That’s right. He apologized for the fact that word of the incident had leaked out. Not for what happened.

New info: In overturning the results of the Saturday vote, Everhart explained that -- according to county rules -- if you show up at a precinct level meeting, and there enough delegate slots available, you cannot be turned down. "If a Democrat showed up and said he was a Republican, we would have to take him," Everhart said. Five people showed, and there were 15 slots open. Case settled.

Because they held the governor’s office for so long, Democrats in Georgia developed a top-down party structure that allowed them to designate quotas – by race and sex -- for their state conventions.

The Georgia GOP, on the other hand, is truly grass-roots driven. So changing the face of the Republican party in this state is something that must be done at the ground level. What happened in Douglas County this weekend demonstrates how tough that could be.

***

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has become the attorney for President Barack Obama. Sunday was his seventh appearance, if memory serves, and it included this exchange on the use of drones – not just overseas, but here:

David Gregory: “Mayor Reed, there's also a question about where this goes. I mean I think that, ultimately, a lot of liberal critics are saying if this becomes more elastic, if this is unchecked, what are the limits to it? I mean look what's going on in Los Angeles, this pursuit of Chris [Dorner], who is the officer there and the subject of this manhunt. You know, could we ultimately use drone technology to both, you know, track him and ultimately kill him if he's an imminent threat? Is that where it goes? And is that an appropriate use of it?”

Reed: “I don't think it goes there if we prevent it from going there. The President's been very clear that he wants to create a structure that informs Congress appropriately. But we've got to remember, both President Bush and President Obama have kept this country safe.”

“And you know when you communicate with him personally, he takes nothing more seriously than being commander-in-chief. And he does not want to take a tool that saves American lives off the table. But he is open to having this conversation.”

***

U.S. Rep. Paul Broun has staked the first days of his Senate candidacy on the issue of sequestration. Let it come, he says. From the Associated Press:

Traveling across Georgia to tout his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Republican Rep. Paul Broun said Friday that he sees $100 billion in automatic budget cuts as Washington's only realistic option for trimming spending. Even with the Pentagon warning that the cuts would devastate the military, Broun said: "I want to see it go into place."

 "It's the only way that we're going to get any positive spending cuts, and I'm in favor of the sequester going into place," Broun said in an interview Friday as he stopped in Savannah. "We've got to reel in the spending with Congress as well as the president. Both parties are guilty."

Lauren Walsh of NBC26 in Augusta caught Broun making the same remarks, but contrasted his attitude toward across-the-board cuts with the thoughts of another member of Congress. From the TV station’s website:

“And the problem with that, is that it treats vital programs like what we’ve got going on at Fort Gordon the same as other government programs that we don’t need and can’t afford,” said Congressman John Barrow from Georgia’s twelfth district. “And that is ridiculous.”

***

The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at the claim that America has twice as many gun shops as McDonald’s stands.

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